By Zack Cherney
The 2019 MLB season has officially come to a close, but there are plenty of memorable moments from the final season of this decade to relive. There were plenty of historic moments, especially for the rookies, from a rookie home run record to a home run derby like none other to outstanding pitching performances. As the 2019 season comes to a close all of these moments are highlighted as the MLB hands out the rookie of the year (ROY) award to the best rookie in the National League and American League.
As soon as any MLB season starts, the rookie of the year is highly anticipated as there are always a plethora of players making their big league debut. All of these young guns look to make their mark on this already star studded roster of MLB players who not long ago made their name as rookies. The rookie class that emerged in 2019 was nothing short of sensational.
The three finalists for National League ROY were Pete Alonso of the New York Mets, Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres, and Mike Soroka of the Atlanta Braves.
Mike Soroka had the unfortunate luck of starting his time in the MLB in the same year as two of the most powerful and energetic rookies in the past decade. Soroka went 13-4 with a 2.68 era, which was 5th best era in all of the majors, and 142 strikeouts in 174.2 innings pitched. For a rookie these are top level stats, but it is so hard for a pitcher to win ROY with all of the emphasis that is placed on the daily talents of position players. Soroka gained a lot of recognition as he dominated for the Atlanta Braves, who went on to win the NL East for back-to-back years, and with this he not only was in ROY talks, but some even considered him for the Cy Young. Soroka has only scratched the surface and has already made a name for himself.
Fernando Tatis Jr., son of former major leaguer Fernando Tatis, quickly was recognized as one of the games most electric players between his pure speed on the base paths, power with the bat, and phenomenal glove in the middle infield. Tatis, unfortunately, only played in 84 games before being placed on the IL with stress reactions in his back and was shut down on August 16th. Before his injury though, he was still able to total 106 hits, 22 home runs, 53 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, and finished with a .317 batting average. He will forever be famous for tagging from 3rd and scoring on a pop up on the infield. He only played half a season and still finished in the top 3 for NL ROY which just shows that this young talent is someone to watch for many years to come.
The clear NL ROY was Pete Alonso who did pretty much everything a rookie could do. In a 162 game season, Alonso played in 161games and racked up some insane offensive numbers including 155 hits, 122 RBIs and the most impressive of all were his 53 home runs which surpassed Aaron Judge’s rookie record of 51 in 2017. Adding to his bragging rights, he also outlasted another phenom in Valdamir Guerrero Jr. in the Home Run Derby during All-Star weekend. Pete Alonso played for a struggling NY Mets team which has had a lot of negativity over the past several years, but he made fans look away from their struggles and pay attention to one of the most successful rookies to ever come up. He took off since his first game in the majors and never slowed down, winning himself the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
The three finalists for the American League ROY were Yordon Alvarez of the Houston Astros, Brandon Lowe of the Tampa Bay Rays, and John Means of the Baltimore Orioles.
For John Means, it was much the same as the season that took place for Mike Soroka because he had a stellar rookie season, but was overshadowed by the clear AL ROY, being a pitcher, and worst of all for Mean: pitching for the second worst team in the majors. Means went 12-11 in 155 innings over 31 outings including 27 starts and finished with a 3.60 era. To finish the season with a winning record and a double digit win total for a rookie pitching for a team that only won 54 games all season is really impressive. The 2019 season was a dreadful one for the Baltimore Orioles as they struggled to score runs and stop opponents from scoring runs, but their one bright spot is that they got a pitcher who can be relied on to get the job done. Give him a few years and his name might be in Cy Young talks.
The Tampa Bay Rays had a year to remember as they finished with 96 wins, were able to take down the dominant Oakland Athletics in the AL Wild Card, and then take the Houston Astros to 5 games in the ALDS which is where their season ended, but for any Rays fan this was a very impressive season. To add to the excitement, they had a rookie in Brandon Lowe who did not make headlines much throughout the season, but was a quiet force which landed him in the top 3 for AL ROY. Lowe had a short stint in the majors in 2018, but not enough to earn him the rookie standing. In 2019, he played in 82 games where he totaled 17 home runs, 51 RBIs, and finished with a .270 batting average. Lowe still has not played a full season in the MLB, but after the success he has had it would be crazy to think that he would not get a spot on the opening day roster come 2020 for a team looking to win the AL East for the first time since 2010.
The AL ROY seemed to have been decided very early on and as the season progressed Yordon Alvarez only seemed to get better. Yordon was unstoppable since his first day with the Astros. He posted 98 hits, 27 home runs, 78 RBIs, 52 walks, and finished with a staggering .313 batting average. The craziest part: he only played in 87 games. In half of a season he put up numbers the average player puts up in an entire season. He had no shortage of incredible moments in his short career such as when he hit three home runs, one of which was a grand slam, in one game against Baltimore and when he hit a home run up into the upper deck of Minute Maid Park in Houston. This 2019 Houston Astros finished with the best record in all of the MLB, had two Cy Young candidates, an MVP candidate, and topped it off with a UNANIMOUS rookie of the year winner.
Pete Alonso and Yordon Alverez performed on levels that most can only dream of and next year as the MLB season begins for the new decade these two will be looking to continue their dominance and capture the attention of fans and players again. 2020 may be the year that Alonso and Alvarez finish in the top spot for MVP.